Young: ’Tis the season: New hunting traditions about to begin

Because our deer season here in Pennsylvania has always started on the Monday after Thanksgiving, the traditional Thanksgiving feast seems like opening ceremony leading up to that long-awaited first day of deer hunting for me, and I’m sure it’s the same for many of my fellow hunters.

I sighted-in my rifle weeks ago but have had precious little time to do much deer scouting this fall, so I spent most of Thanksgiving morning taking a walk in the woods to make a final check around my deer stands. Since the “extended” three days turkey season also begins on Thanksgiving Day, I took along a shotgun, just in case I encountered any fresh turkey sign during my trek.

While enjoying my hike, I recalled some of the news reports from earlier in the week, making a great deal of fuss about the president “pardoning” a turkey for Thanksgiving. Of course, this idiotic ritual has been going on for as long as I can remember, and it just gets lamer every year.

In many respects, the silly custom of making a pet out of a piece of livestock grown for food probably fits the current resident of the White House, who strikes me as a bit of a wuss and grossly out of touch with reality. I then thought of how great it might be to have a president who actually has killed and dressed a turkey or any other animal for that matter. I also wondered who was our last president to do so – maybe Teddy Roosevelt?

The Black Friday shopping mania is one part of the Thanksgiving weekend I usually try to avoid at all costs. After returning home from hunting, however, I realized that I had forgotten to redeem my DMAP coupon for the required permit and antlerless deer tag, so I ventured out Friday afternoon to take care of that last piece of business before deer season. As is my usual custom,

I’ll probably finish up the last of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey today as I go about my final preparations for tomorrow’s first day of deer season. Once I have all my gear assembled and packed, I’ll watch some TV and turn in early to be ready for the early alarm and the predawn trip to a ridge top to await the sunrise and, if luck is with me, the appearance of a nice buck sometime soon thereafter.

Although I hope to fill a deer tag before I return home tomorrow, the ultimate goal is to return home safe and sound, and I wish the same for my fellow hunters. I think that sentiment grows stronger as one grows older. That is not to imply that hunting is inherently dangerous, which it is not.

Yet, occasionally I still talk to an uninformed non-hunter who has the perception that anyone going in the woods during hunting season is taking an extreme risk and that bullets will be flying about everywhere. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth, and if anything, hunting is probably getting safer as evidenced by the fact that there wasn’t a single fatal hunting related shooting incident during 2012. Let’s hope that trend continues this year as well.

As I’ve said many times, the most dangerous part of any hunting trip is the drive to and from your hunting spot. Since 1986, I’ve been involved in three traffic accidents, all of them while going or returning from a hunting trip. The most recent of those occurred early last Saturday morning on my way to go bear hunting.

About 20 miles from home, I began to feel a vibration as if I had a tire going down. At the first convenient spot, I pulled over and found no low tire, so I decided to return home rather than risk going farther. Not long after I turned around, the vibration became noticeably worse. As I slowed down to pull over again, the left rear wheel came off, and I managed to steer the vehicle to the shoulder and get it stopped.

Being stranded on the side of the road, in the dark, at 6 a.m. and missing a wheel is upsetting to say the least, but I was also thankful things weren’t any worse than that. A short time later a very nice lady gave me a ride back to Altoona. I had my SUV towed to my mechanic later that morning, and after a few minor repairs, he was able to mount my spare tire and get me back on the road by noon. I even managed to catch up with my hunting buddies and make the last two bear drives of the day.

You can bet I will be taking it plenty easy on my way to my hunting spot tomorrow morning. Whatever excitement the day brings, I prefer that it happens in the woods. It’s definitely safer there.